Ali Harbi Ali given whole-life sentence for murder of David Amess

The family of Sir David Amess said they would “for ever shed tears” after his murder by a terrorist assassin who was sentenced to “die in prison” for an attack “on the heart of democracy”.

Ali Harbi Ali, 26, was handed a whole-life tariff by Mr Justice Sweeney after being convicted on Monday of murdering the MP and of planning terrorist attacks on other MPs, including the cabinet minister Michael Gove, for two years before he killed Amess.

Ali, from north London, had read extensive online Islamic State propaganda and answered their call for lone wolf attacks, the judge said.

He attacked Amess at a constituency surgery at a church in Leigh-on-Sea on 15 October last year, repeatedly plunging the knife deep into his chest cavity as directed by Islamic State videos on how to murder.

The judge said the case was of such exceptional seriousness that a rare whole-life order was merited. Ali also received a life sentence for his planning of attacks.

The jury at the Old Bailey on Monday took less than 20 minutes to convict Ali – who had once wanted to be a doctor.

Sweeney described the evidence as overwhelming. He said: “This was a murder that struck at the heart of our democracy.” So serious were the murder and the motives behind it, he said, “that the defendant must be kept in prison for the rest of his life”, meaning in all likelihood that Ali would “die in prison”.

Official figures suggest Ali is the 62nd person serving a whole-life tariff. Others include the Reading terrorist knife attacker, Khairi Saadallah, whom Ali studied as he plotted to kill an MP, and former Met police officer Wayne Couzens, who kidnapped and murdered Sarah Everard.

Afterwards a statement was read out on behalf of Amess’s wife and five children. They called the attack “beyond evil”, and revealed their struggle to cope with their grief, making a plea for more tolerance in society.

The Amess family said: “There is no elation in our family today following this sentencing. Our amazing husband and father has been taken from us in an appalling and violent manner. Nothing will ever compensate for that.

“We will wake each day and immediately feel our loss. We will struggle through each day for the rest of our lives. Our last thought before sleep will be of David. We will for ever shed tears for the man we have lost. We shall never get over this tragedy.

“It breaks our heart to know that our husband and father would have greeted the murderer with a smile of friendship and would have been anxious to help. How sickening to think what happened next. It is beyond evil.”

They went on to make a plea for greater kindness: “We appeal to everyone to treat their fellow human beings with kindness, love and understanding. This is needed more than ever now.”

Amess, known as a diligent constituency MP for 38 years, had friends and admirers in all parties.

The judge said his death was of national significance, as he laid out the facts of the case and why Ali would spend the rest of his life in jail. He said: “Sir David was a man of the greatest substance. He had done nothing whatsoever to justify the attack upon him, let alone his murder. On the contrary, he had devoted 38 years of his life to the lawful service of the public, and was engaged in doing so when he was murdered.”

Amess’s aide, Julie Cushion, in her victim statement, said Ali had a look of “smugness” as police led him away from the church after he had stabbed Amess 21 times and stopped anyone from helping the stricken MP.

The judge noted that not only did Ali displayed no remorse, but he seemed proud of his attack.

The assassination was Ali’s revenge for Amess being among a majority of MPs who voted for tough action against Islamic State as the group expanded its territory in 2014 and 2015.

Ali had thought about and decided against going to Syria, and bought a knife in 2016 for an attack in the UK, which he used five years later against Amess.

The judge said the murder had several aggravating factors, including that it was meant, as Ali admitted in police interview, to further a cause, strike fear into MPs, was premeditated and planned, and Amess was attacked as he served the public.

The veteran Conservative MP for Southend West was the second MP in five years to be assassinated by a terrorist. In 2016 Labour’s Jo Cox was murdered by an extreme rightwing terrorist.

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